Nature’s Depths

Walking through nature with John Palka, a neuroscientist who loves plants and ponders big questions

Drops of sap forming, Eastman Nature Center

The Sap Is Rising


Among the annual changes that occur in the deciduous forests of the Upper Midwest, the Northeast, and many parts of Canada is the extravagant production of the sweet sap of sugar maples (Acer saccharum, Family Sapindaceae) and a handful of other tree species.

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Trees through the Seasons


Over and over on Nature’s Depths we have seen that a forest is in many respects like a super-organism, with startlingly many interacting components ranging from towering trees to soil microorganisms that we can only detect with a microscope or with molecular techniques. When we go walking, however, it is the trees that largely make up the forest of our experience, and that experience changes with the seasons.

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Rohtang Pass

Come Walk with Me


Many neuroscientists ponder big questions because, after all, most of us believe that the nervous system is the seat of human experience and emotions and thus of what is most meaningful in our lives. It is less common to find neuroscientists who also love and study plants. I would like to take this opportunity to share with you how this dual affinity came about for me.

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